South Jacksonville Celebration Under Way, Part of Village’s Goals of Inclusiveness

By Benjamin Cox on May 5, 2023 at 5:37pm

The Village of South Jacksonville Celebration returns tonight from 6-10PM.

The carnival kicks off at 6PM for the public at Prairieland Heritage Museum.

Celebration Committee Chair and South Jacksonville Trustee Paula Belobradjic-Stewart says the Celebration’s heart lies in inclusion and bringing the whole community together for fun and fellowship. Stewart says part of that inclusion is once again having Four Rivers Special Education District as a chief sponsor of the event. Stewart, who works as a full-time educator with Four Rivers, says not many people know the amount of services and type of work that Four Rivers performs for students with a variety of abilities across it’s 19-district, 8-county service territory: “The students that Four Rivers serves are definitely in that population that we are supporting and targeting with our inclusiveness.”

Stewart says that in the wake of the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, the Village of South Jacksonville doubled down on being inclusive by drafting and signing an anti-racism/anti-discrimination pledge with the help from community partners. Stewart says that last year’s organizing of what was then called the “Spring Fling” and now called “The South Jacksonville Celebration” is one component of those initiatives. Stewart says it’s also about including everyone in a time where affordability for family entertainment is expensive and limits peoples abilities to have family-oriented recreation.

Rides and parking for the carnival are free for the duration of the event. Patrons of the carnival will only have to pay for food from the food trucks and carnival games, which are a new addition this year.

Stewart says that Four Rivers’ students got a sneak peak of the carnival in an exclusive private event where food, games, and rides were all absolutely free. Stewart says that many students who participated in the event last year experienced a carnival for the very first time.

Conner Amusements of Beardstown is once again providing the rides. Stewart says that after last year’s success, the village decided to expand the offerings this year: “The exciting part is there will be 15 rides this year. One of those rides is going to be a ferris wheel, which we didn’t have last year. We had 7 rides last year. It seemed like after looking back on last year that Prairieland is such a vast area when the 7 rides were up. I thought ‘Oh wow, we could have a lot more in this area.’ We are adding a strip of carnival games, as well.”

The South Jacksonville Celebration culminates on Saturday with a parade stepping off at 10AM, with a matinee carnival from 1-5PM and then evening carnival time again from 6-10PM.